The Dutch have been the poorest shooting team in the Euros averaging almost 14 attempts off target per match. They managed to beat Russia and Aleksandr Kherzakov to second best by about 3 attempts. Against Denmark, the Dutch sprayed the ball all over the place like drunks taking a wiz.
Most of this scoring futility has been the result of leaving the ball at the feet of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. So much of this Dutch side is about the scoring prowess of its wingers and strikers which also includes Ibrahim Affelay and Klaas Jan Huntelaar one forgets they have decent set piece scorers in Johnny Hietinga and Joris Mathijsen. Mark Van Bommel who used to score fairly regularly till about two years from free kicks has faded with fewer opportunities since Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and RVP took over that area.
The Portugese could have fallen into the same trap relying on Cristiano Ronaldo who has had chances a plenty in front of goal but against Denmark they won because of goals from other sources like Pepe and Silvestre Varela. Nani, the other big consumer of oxygen found his utility by providing an assist to set up Helder Postiga’s goal. Despite their low possession rates (~ 43%) which should be no different against the Netherlands they have been more effective on the counterattack. They have far more midfielders willing to be via points in scoring with Nani, Coentrao, and Moutinho assisting in the end product.
The Dutch in the 2010 World Cup were effective because they had Wesley Sneijder playing behind RVP in that playmaker role which saw them create high percentage scoring opportunities. Sneijder himself scored five goals in that World Cup including two against Brazil. Now, it’s a Wild, Wild West with Robben trying to jink his way from right to left and RVP in an un- Arsenal like manner trying to blaze the ball over. Sneijder is the forgotten man in this equation.
The keys to a Dutch win:
1. Less individualism, more team work: Wesley Sneijder has to be more authoritative in imposing a team like presence towards crafting goals.
2. Unconventional goalscoring sources: Seek out Johnny Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen during corners and free kicks.
3. Jettison the extra holding midfielder: Go with a two striker set with a 4-4-2 leaving out Nigel De Jong. The number of goals scored is of extreme importance.
All this depends on Germany doing its job and winning against Denmark and not playing to draw and ensuring both get through. Robben has appealed to his Bayern Munich team mates to give them the result they desire. It’s desperation time for the Dutch and they will have to come out smoking from the gates.